Top Five Stories in Energy This Week

As the holidays approach, millions of American families are getting ready to face the coldest days of winter. Recent weather forecasts indicate that ice storms and heavy snowfall will arrive as early as the first week of December, and they will put an end to the mild temperatures that have been enjoyed in many parts of the country. This winter is expected to be colder than the previous one, and it will also be more expensive for households in certain states. According to research compiled by personal finance site Wallet Hub, energy costs in Connecticut this winter will average $380 per month while the average in Alaska will be $322. These are the priciest winter states in terms of heating, electricity and gasoline.

Representatives of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries wrapped up their latest meeting in Vienna with a resolution to extend production cuts to continue their ongoing effort to boost crude oil prices. The reduced output has been in place for a year, and it has been successful. Crude oil prices stand at $64 today; this is a 20 percent improvement on a year-over-year basis. Not all OPEC members participated in the reduction; Libya and Nigeria were exempt due to economic hardship.

A solar window project at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory has successfully absorbed sunlight and converted it to electricity. This combination solar panel and window is a triumph of nanotechnology; the materials used include methylamine, calcium titanium oxide and carbon nanotubes. The appearance of the window is transparent until it is exposed to sunlight and transforms into a dark tint; this is when the solar panel activates. When the window is in its tinted state, it allows three percent of sunlight to pass and the rest is converted into electricity. Scientists working on this project explained that the glass material can be used in homes, cars and smartphones.

German automaker Volkswagen has selected the U.S. as the location where its electric cars will be made in the near future. The company is still reeling from the 2015 scandal involving misrepresentation of diesel emissions; to this effect, VW has made a commitment to invest $41 billion into electric vehicle technology as well as autonomous driving systems. The VW plant in Chattanooga will be expanded to handle production goals; this is where the automaker plans to manufacture all its electric cars destined for the North American market.

Even as OPEC continues its efforts to raise the price of crude oil, American drivers will get some relief at the pump during the holidays. Analysts who following the futures market believe that crude oil will take a break from its recent rally and adjust downward over the next few weeks as the OPEC production quotas are implemented. What this means for American drivers is that they should see slightly lower gasoline prices; however, this reprieve will only be temporary. Fuel prices will likely return to current levels by February 2018, and they may continue to rise over the year if the OPEC production strategies succeed.

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